By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 0 Comments
The data has not been publicly reported by correctional authorities, but in an exclusive interview with the Star last week, Canada’s chief prison investigator Howard Sapers first flagged a trend that shows no sign of waning. It includes more inmate-to-inmate violence, inmates assaulting guards, as well as guards who are violent toward inmates, across all federal facilities housing male and female offenders in Canada.
Over the past three years ending March 31, 2012, the total number of assaults Correctional Services Canada reported behind bars rose from 1,415 in 2009/10, to 1,566 in 2010/11, to 1,669 in 2011/12. That’s an increase of 15 per cent in just three years.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
The Star finds funding slashed for youth justice programs.
The Conservative government has slashed 20 per cent of federal funding for youth justice programs in Canada, cutting $35.6 million used to supervise and rehabilitate young offenders, the Star has learned. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson made no mention of the drastic cut Wednesday in a news release that trumpeted “continued support” for the Youth Justice Services Funding Program.
It is a key federal initiative that has directly transferred money to provinces and territories to deliver services to troubled youth ever since the original Young Offenders Act was passed in 1985. Instead, Nicholson said only that starting next spring, the Conservative government will “continue” to fund the program at $141.7 million annually.
Meanwhile, guided tours of Parliament Hill are being reduced.
See previously: The quiet cuts
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 4, 2012 at 1:53 PM - 0 Comments
The Associate Minister of Defence and former Toronto police chief comments on this weekend’s shooting at the Eaton Centre.
“Some of these people obviously need to be taught a lesson,” Mr. Fantino said. “We haven’t been able to effectively get their attention. That’s why some of some of these sentences, severe sentences and mandatory sentences are absolutely critical.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 9:06 AM - 0 Comments
Tonda MacCharles notes the government’s recent enthusiasm for private member’s bills.
Sponsored by backbenchers, not ministers, private member’s bills can make significant changes in areas of federal public policy, yet because they are drafted with the help of Library of Parliament counsel they do not go through the usual justice department scrutiny. They are not subjected to the department’s analysis for constitutionality, regulatory impact or cost versus benefit. Nor are they subject of memoranda to cabinet for consideration by the full ministry — a process that may flag important regional, departmental or political concerns.
The Star has learned that although the government is publicly backing the bills, it does not allow Department of Justice lawyers to appear to publicly testify about the constitutionality of those bills.
Here is the Library of Parliament’s list of private member’s bills that have been passed by Parliament, 235 in all since 1910. Since 2006, there have been five amendments made to the Criminal Code via private member’s business and a related amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Three of those originated with Conservative backbenchers.
Twenty-seven private member’s bills passed during the last period of Liberal majority government (1994-2004). Only two of those were Criminal Code amendments. (Seven of them were for the purposes of renaming electoral ridings.)
Last year, Evan Sotiropoulos reviewed recent trends in private member’s business.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Last week, the NDP criticized Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu after Mr. Boisvenu suggested convicted murders be given rope and allowed to decide for themselves whether they wanted to live. Pat Martin referred to the Senator using a bad word.
On Monday, Conservative MP Greg Rickford rose before Question Period and reported those events to the House as follows.
The NDP wants to silence victims, urging a well-known victims’ advocate to stop speaking out about Canada’s justice system.
Mr. Martin has now apologized for his curse.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 1:14 PM - 0 Comments
Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu has some ideas on reducing prison expenses.
“Basically, every killer should (have) the right to his own rope in his cell. They can decide whether to live,” Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu told reporters Wednesday.
A victims’ rights advocate and now a senator, Boisvenu also says the death penalty should be considered in certain cases when there’s no hope of rehabilitation. He says limited use of capital punishment could save money. He cited the case of the Shafias — the Montrealers who were convicted this week of killing four female family members. Boisvenu estimates that it will cost Canadian taxpayers $10 million to keep them locked up.
In the case of the Shafias, Mr. Boisvenu apparently said “returning them to their country might be a tougher sentence than to keep them here, where our prisons are a lot more comfortable.”
Update 3:46pm. A statement (en francais) from Mr. Boisvenu. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 9, 2011 at 10:03 AM - 13 Comments
A former Progressive Conservative MP and Justice Department advisor says the government’s crime legislation will lead to worsening conditions in prisons.
Mr. Daubney said that, since the mid-2000s, the Justice Department has asked for less and less research to be undertaken and typically ignores recommendations against policies such as mandatory minimum sentences or prison expansion. “It is kind of sad that I have to do this, but somebody has to take the risk of talking,” Mr. Daubney said. “I feel sad for my colleagues who are still there. It was clear the government wasn’t interested in what the research said or in evidence that was quite convincingly set out.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 10:36 AM - 10 Comments
“The commitment that the government made was to pass the crime bill within 100 sitting days,” LeBreton said. “It’s sometime in mid-March. ”We fully expect it will be debated in the Senate, and will go to committee, legal and constitutional affairs, and it will be there I expect for quite some time.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 19 Comments
What makes the government’s eleventh hour effort to amend its own bill even more puzzling, however, is what the speaker didn’t mention, perhaps out of politeness, but more likely because he simply didn’t know: namely, the fact that similar amendments had, in fact, been brought forward at committee, by Liberal MP — and former justice minister — Irwin Cotler, whereupon the Conservative majority on the other side of the table voted down each and every one.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM - 38 Comments
The government’s crime bill will pass Parliament without an accounting of its cost.
Opposition politicians voted to find Prime Minister Harper and his government in contempt of Parliament last March – this was a historic first – for not giving up the full costs of its so-called tough on crime legislation. Now, it is poised to pass the bill and Canadians are still no wiser. “It is a travesty that the Conservatives have told neither the Canadian people nor the provinces what all this is going to cost – with the slowing economy and big financial pressures all ’round this is even more irresponsible,” Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae told The Globe Monday morning. “Both the jets and the jails put the lie to the Conservative line about being the party of ‘fiscal prudence.’ Ridiculous.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 12:18 PM - 18 Comments
Chris Cobb looks at one of the implications of the government’s crime legislation.
“It is badly drafted legislation,” says University of Toronto criminologist Anthony Doob. “The government has a role to make good laws and this isn’t good law. We should penalize according to the harm caused and I don’t think that the 18-year-old who gives his 17-year-old friend marijuana deserves a penitentiary sentence. How did kids sharing marijuana suddenly become organized criminals?”
To the list of those with concerns about the government’s direction, you can the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel, who see a looming crisis in the justice system.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 2:08 PM - 24 Comments
Rob Nicholson, July 2008. “We don’t govern by statistics in our government.”
Rob Nicholson, July 2009. “We don’t govern on the latest statistics.”
Stockwell Day, August 2010. “We’re very concerned . . . about the increase in the amount of unreported crimes that surveys clearly show are happening. People simply aren’t reporting the same way they used to.”
Rob Nicholson, September 2011. “We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics.”
Jeff Watson, this morning in the House. “Madam Speaker, with our tackling violent crime act, measures to strengthen parole, pardons and sentences for violent criminals, funds for more frontline police and to prevent at-risk youth from a life of crime, only this Conservative government is making our communities and streets safer. According to StatsCan’s just released 2010 crime severity index, Windsor–Essex is the safest region in Canada. Among the safest Canadian communities over 10,000 people, the town of LaSalle ranks 2nd, Tecumseh 4th, Kingsville 7th, Lakeshore 8th, Essex 12th. Windsor is the 7th safest big city of 32, and topping the list of 238 safest towns and cities is my hometown, Amherstburg. Thanks to our dedicated police, strong community involvement, our government’s investments to prevent crime and tough laws to crack down on criminals, Windsor–Essex is the safest region in Canada.”
Local officials in Windsor and Essex County have cited a number of possible explanations for the recent success there, including shifting demographics, community assistance, police involvement in schools and “luck.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 8 Comments
Stephen Harper, June 6, 2008. It’s one thing that they, the criminals do not get it, but if you don’t mind me saying, another part of the problem for the past generation has been those, also a small part of our society, who are not criminals themselves, but who are always making excuses for them, and when they aren’t making excuses, they are denying that crime is even a problem: the ivory tower experts, the tut-tutting commentators, the out-of-touch politicians. “Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong,” they say. “Crime is not really a problem.” I don’t know how you say that.
Rob Nicholson, Sept. 20, 2011. We’re not governing on the basis of the latest statistics. We’re governing on the basis of what’s right to better protect victims and law-abiding Canadians … Canadians want and deserve to feel safe in their homes and in their communities.
Kevin Sorenson, yesterday. At the committee the Minister of Public Safety had to explain to the NDP that there is a difference between feeling safe and actually being safe. It is irresponsible to continue pouring tax dollars into the long gun registry because it feels like the right thing to do or the safe thing to do. The NDP proved again that it is unfit to lead.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 10:39 AM - 13 Comments
Steve Sullivan, the former victims ombudsman, reviews the government’s crime legislation.
In the hundreds of pages of would-be law, I found only a few that deal with victims. Among those are several provisions that enhance the rights of victims in the corrections and parole system. These are important provisions, but were first introduced in 2005 by the Liberal government of Paul Martin.
The provisions to toughen sentencing for sex offenders will be welcomed by most. Few of us lose sleep over child-sex offenders spending more time in prison. But some of the reforms will toughen the sentences for low-risk offenders, with low rates of recividism. They won’t make children safer, but will cost five times more than what is being invested in Child Advocacy Centres that support abused children.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 7, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 15 Comments
The Prime Minister responds to the complaints of Ontario and Quebec about his government’s crime policies.
Look, it’s – there’s constitutional responsibilities of all governments to enforce laws and protect people, and I’ve seen the data. I think the people of Ontario and Quebec expect that their government will work with the federal government to make sure we have safe streets and safe communities.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 4, 2011 at 12:35 PM - 24 Comments
About 13 per cent of the male inmate population is “double-bunked” – housed in cells built for one person – and, under the new legislation, that will increase to 30 per cent (about 15,000 prisoners) before planned new construction is able to “provide relief,” added Sapers.
“Prison over-crowding undermines nearly everything that can be positive or useful about a correctional environment,” he said. “It is linked to increased levels of institutional violence, is a contributing factor to the spread of infectious disease and reduces already limited access to correctional programming and delays the safe and timely reintegration of offenders into the community.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 5:52 PM - 21 Comments
The Scene. Shortly before the start of Question Period this afternoon, Conservative backbencher Patrick Brown rose to repeat his side’s line that the NDP is too “disunited” to govern. A moment later, Conservative backbencher Greg Rickford rose to lament that the NDP, in punishing two MPs who defied the party’s decision to whip a vote on the gun registry, was also too committed to enforcing unity.
Presumably this was Mr. Rickford’s way of protesting his own government’s decision to whip this week’s vote on asbestos exports. Hopefully his caucus leadership won’t too severely punish him for so bravely asserting the independence of individual MPs.
Immediately thereafter, the Speaker then called for oral questions and the official opposition sent up Joe Comartin, Mr. Comartin having apparently discovered an example of irony that he was eager to share with everyone. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 10:03 AM - 15 Comments
More likely, added Russell, provinces objecting to the cost or content of the legislation will ignore certain aspects of it — trafficking or possession of small amounts of marijuana, for example. “They will say to police who are out looking, ‘If you get a call give it a low priority’,” he said. “I don’t think they would actually say, ‘We’re not going to enforce the law.’ They would say to the provincial police, ‘Give people who grow pot a low priority’. They can certainly do that. You just don’t put the resources into it. It’s a matter of discretion.”
Politically, Canada is headed into a situation where the provinces are shaping up as the official opposition, added Russell. “They are taking over that role,” he said, “and have a constitutional right to do so.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 4:32 PM - 13 Comments
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews first claimed that long-gun registry data needed to be destroyed lest it fall into the NDP’s hands. Mr. Toews then argued that destroying the data was necessary as a matter of privacy. On the latter point, the privacy commissioner seems not entirely to agree.
Jennifer Stoddart said there’s nothing in the Privacy Act that prevents the federal government from sharing the data with provincial governments. Indeed, the Privacy Commissioner said the act actually permits disclosure of personal information, provided it’s done through a federal-provincial agreement for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 2:34 PM - 4 Comments
Quebec’s justice minister takes a stand, a Bloc MP goes even further.
Quebec will not absorb the additional costs associated with the crime bill the Conservative federal government has promised to pass within 100 sitting days of Parliament, the province’s justice minister told a Commons committee Tuesday … While Fournier didn’t go quite so far, Bloc Quebecois MP Maria Mourani later suggested Quebec may simply choose not to enforce the legislation.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM - 3 Comments
Despite repeated calls, no systematic case has yet been made to justify the extent of the new investigative capabilities that would have been created by the bills. Canadian authorities have yet to provide the public with evidence to suggest that CSIS or Canadian police cannot perform their duties under the current regime. One-off cases and isolated incidents should not prove the rule, nor should exigent or emergency circumstances, for which there are already Criminal Code provisions.
As well, if the concern of law enforcement agencies is that it is difficult to obtain warrants or judicial authorization in a timely way, these administrative challenges should be addressed by administrative solutions rather than by weakening long-standing legal principles that uphold Canadians’ fundamental freedoms.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 6:06 PM - 86 Comments
The Scene. At its essence, this debate over the long-gun registry was always a debate about paperwork. And so it is only right and fitting that it should end now with a fight over what should be done with that paper.
For the record, Article 29 of Bill C-19, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, states that “the Commissioner of Firearms shall ensure the destruction as soon as feasible of all records in the Canadian Firearms Registry related to the registration of firearms that are neither prohibited firearms nor restricted firearms and all copies of those records under the Commissioner’s control.” And variously this much is viewed as a waste of both information and money.
“Why,” Nycole Turmel asked this afternoon, “destroy two billion dollars of accumulated information, while the provinces and the police want to keep it?” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 1:37 PM - 15 Comments
A note from the office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.
Following the tabling of the Government’s proposed legislation to abolish the long gun registry, Sue O’Sullivan, Canada’s Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, today spoke out in support of the long-gun registry, urging the federal government to maintain the registry as a tool for preventing further victimization. “Our position on this matter is clear – Canada must do all it can to prevent further tragedies from happening, including using the tools we have to help keep communities safe, like the long-gun registry,” stated Ms. O’Sullivan.
According to 2002 RCMP data, long-guns are the most common type of firearm used in spousal homicides. Over the past decade, 71% of spousal homicides involved rifles and shotguns. “Though there are varying points of view, the majority of victims’ groups we have spoken with continue to support keeping long-gun registry,” explained Ms. O’Sullivan. “I have brought that voice forward to the Government by relaying those views directly to the Minister of Justice in our most recent meeting.”
The Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime helps victims to address their needs, promotes their interests and makes recommendations to the federal government on issues that negatively impact victims.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:09 PM - 5 Comments
The murder rate fell again in 2010
In 2010, police reported 554 homicides in Canada, 56 fewer than the year before. This decline follows a decade of relative stability. The homicide rate fell to 1.62 for every 100,000 population, its lowest level since 1966.
Firearms-related and gang-related homicides declined. The number of homicides by intimate partners (including spouses) was stable.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 3:54 PM - 128 Comments
In addition to eliminating the long-gun registry, the government’s new legislation will destroy all records related to the registry.
The government’s lead minister declared he wants to thwart the ability of any other party, such as the NDP, to recreate it as well. “We won’t have these records loose and capable then of creating a new long gun registry should they ever have the opportunity to do that,” ” said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews at a news conference at an Ottawa valley farm.